Sunday, June 03, 2012

Preparing the Endurance Horse - Full Article

by Eric Hought

When plotting a course to reach any goal, the final expectation must be known. Without a vision the chances of reaching that goal are slim. Many riders stumble because they have no clear mental image and do not have a large arsenal of techniques. When you drove here today, you knew exactly where you were going to make turns in order to arrive in Mariposa. You may have faltered slightly, but you made it. I am sure that none of you just got into the car and began driving in hopes you would arrive today. You had a plan to get here. It is exactly the same with our horse. If we do not have a plan, how can both of us arrive at the same place at the same time?

My goal today is to plant the seed that preparing a horse is simple. Mental preparation of the horse is most important. If the horse is not mentally prepared for any situation or execution of a maneuver, he can not perform to his peak potential. The "work" of preparing him mentally takes place while he learns the mechanics of feet and body control.

The mind of the horse must be on the same page of execution as the rider or leader. Everything we do with the horse is centered on building a good mind. The rider must be able to control every step the horse takes during a ride. Out of control at the start of the ride or any other part of the ride is dangerous for the horse and rider. Aside from that, the wasted effort by the horse can affect his strength and/or recovery at other points in the ride.

The use of exhaustion as a tool to cause the Arabian endurance horse to look to the rider for relief is not an option for preparing the endurance horse. The old phrase of "the blood rises in the head" is not an accurate assessment of the situation. I don't know positively whether or not the reactive side of the horse is the results of the release of adrenaline into the system. If that is the correct assumption then little to no progress will follow until the horse's system returns to normal. I spoke with a veterinarian and he thought it was more of the personality of the horse. Whichever is correct, the rider must wait until the horse returns to normal in order to continue preparing the horse.

The "trick" is to change the activity "before" the adrenaline is released. The window of opportunity between mounting and working with the horse before the adrenaline release will vary from horse to horse, rider to rider and the immediate environment of activity.

A horse's window of opportunity can be enlarged through careful preparation of the horse by the rider. The rider never has the privilege of assuming the position, "I just let him go until it is out of his system". My position is this rider lacks knowledge of how the horse learns, lacks skills and avoids responsibility for the horse's actions by placing the blame upon the horse. The classic method of correction is to use a more severe tool of intimidation such as a larger bit, tie down or martingale. The reality is the rider must return to a snaffle bit and rebuild the foundation of the horse's skills. "But he is not in control with a snaffle bit". The answer is simple. Ride at the walk until control of all four feet is achieved in the walk then progress to the trot etc. This can not happen on a ride. It all takes place on the trail, riding solo in training until control is achieved. It could take 3-4 months or longer depending upon how engrained the behavior, how often the horse is ridden per week and most important the consistency of the rider. The rider's plan is key to success of the horse...

Read more here:

No comments: